WideLase: Monolithic Widely Tunable Interband Cascade Lasers for Safety and Security

Results

Final press release

Within the European project WideLase, scientists and engineers from across Europe joined forces to develop a new generation of laser based sensor systems with direct benefits for society and the wellbeing and health of our population.

Three challenging applications addressing important markets have successfully been realized in the project: One application in traffic control comprises a system able to remotely detect driver intoxication. Driving under the influence of alcohol continues to be a major cause of road fatalities. The new sensor developed by Airoptic (Poland) deploys an eye safe laser beam transmitted across the road, through the passenger compartment of a driving car. Laser based spectroscopy is used to measure the concentration of alcohol vapor in exhaled breath. The second application by Airoptic is a formaldehyde detection system for on-line monitoring during wood board manufacturing. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and the most significant sources of formaldehyde in homes are likely to be pressed wood products. Accurate on-line monitoring will allow manufacturers to gain tighter control of emission levels. The third application investigated by Norsk Elektro Optikk (Norway) is the detection of leakage from aerosol cans. By law each aerosol can has to undergo a final leakage test before it can be delivered to customers. Presently the most commonly used method is to dip the bottles into a hot water bath and check for bubbles. This method is very inconvenient and timeconsuming. An elegant solution based on a contactless passing-by optical measurement as desired by industrial users has been developed in WideLase.

The WideLase project (www.widelase.eu) with partners from Germany, Norway, Poland and the Netherlands started in 2012 and was supported by the European Commission with a funding of 2.2 million Euros within the EU 7th Framework programme. The European level was essential to obtain access to the range and quality of personnel, technical expertise and resources required to tackle the various research challenges of the project.

Consortium partner nanoplus (Germany), an international leading supplier of lasers for gas sensing applications, and Mach8 Lasers (the Netherlands) were responsible for the development of novel laser sources within the project. They investigated two highly innovative concepts for application-grade, compact, rugged and cost effective widely tunable lasers in the mid infrared, which were then used for the development of the above sensor systems.

The success of the project’s four industrial partners in their various fields was only made possible by a tremendous support from the academic WideLase partners at the University of Würzburg (Germany) and Wroclaw University of Technology (Poland) laying the project foundation by design, growth and characterization of novel semiconductor laser structures.

WideLase has created durable links between European industries and academia and will contribute to maintain European competitiveness at an industrial level, bringing Europe ahead of competition in important emerging markets

Initial press release

In the recently launched project WideLase a new generation of laser sources for sensing will be developed by a joint effort of European scientists and engineers. A major driver for the realization of these laser sources is the development of a qualitatively new level of techniques for the detection and monitoring of hazardous organic substances.

The availability of improved sensing techniques will result directly in benefits for society and the well-being and health of the population. Within the project technical findings will be instantly validated by two industrial partners of the consortium in important safety applications: A real-time online monitoring instrument for formaldehyde will be investigated by Airoptic (Poland) within the project which also has great commercial potential with emission standards being enforced on products that emit formaldehyde particularly including plywood products. A second application pursued by Airoptic concerns the remote detection of drunk driving. Although alcohol-related traffic accidents have been decreasing throughout the European Union in recent years, driving whilst under the influence of alcohol continues to be an important cause of road fatalities. In addition, a hydrocarbon leak finder will be investigated by Norsk Elektro Optikk (Norway) within WideLase preventing fire hazards as well as preventing impacts on world climate and global warming by reducing methane emissions in sectors encompassing oil and gas production or long distance gas transmission.

Those are only examples of the ways in which the newly developed laser sources can bring about benefits to the public. The underlying laser technology will facilitate a diversity of other applications which will have a positive impact on safety and security while simultaneously contributing to a greener world and having an enormous economic potential. WideLase will create durable links between European industries and academia and will contribute to maintain European competitiveness at an industrial level, by bringing some of the major European component manufacturing centres ahead of competition in important emerging markets.

Consortium partners nanoplus (Germany) and Mach8 Lasers (the Netherlands) are responsible for mono mode laser development within the project und will investigate two highly innovative concepts for wide tunability and unprecedented performance in the MIR wavelength range between 3.3 µm to 7.0 µm. nanoplus is currently an international leading supplier of lasers for gas sensing applications and notably provided devices for the current NASA Curiosity mission on Mars. Present laser sources, however, made commercially available by consortium partner nanoplus at a variety of wavelengths possess an inherently limited wavelength tuning range. Application-grade, compact, rugged and cost effective widely tunable lasers are not available in the wavelength range of interest. nanoplus therefore sees unique opportunities in the WideLase project overcoming these obstacles hindering a widespread exploitation of laser based sensing for many applications where an extended tuning range is required. The success of the four industrial partners in the various fields will only be possible by a tremendous support from the academic WideLase partners at University of Würzburg (Germany) and Wroclaw University of Technology (Poland) laying the project foundation by design, growth and characterization of novel semiconductor structures for mono mode laser fabrication.

Recently, a Grant Agreement was signed between the European Union and the project coordinator Wnanoplus Nanosystems and Technologies GmbH. The WWideLase project with partners from Germany, Norway, Poland and the Netherlands has a duration of three years and is supported by funding in the amount of Euro 2.2 million from the EU as part of the 7th Framework Programme. Establishing WideLase and a European level is essential for obtaining access to the range and quality of personnel, technical expertise and resources required to tackle the various research challenges of the project.

Contact

Dr. Marc Fischer nanoplus Nanosystems and Technologies GmbH
D-97218 Gerbrunn
Germany
phone +49 (0)931-90827-20